At the end of August we were finally on our way to the Southern tip of the Istrian Coast of the Adriatic – Pula, a city full of Roman heritage with a magnificent abandoned fort of the 17th century. We would spend the days from the 23rd to the 28th of August at the amazing Dimensions Festival 2016, the 5th edition of the by now internationally recognized dance music festival organised by a bunch of British music lovers who seem to have discovered the perfect festival setting.
Already the two-day drive and the arrival by car from the hills under cloudless skies getting a first glance of the city and its antique Roman Amphitheatre was an exciting first experience. The old fortress at which Dimensions would take place is situated at Punta Christo, on a small peninsula at the northern end of the city built by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to protect the city, at that time their main naval port, from invaders. This mystical scenery of a mixture of ruins, wild-growing nature and Clearwater beaches stretching over 10.000m2 is the festival area that every festival organiser and festival goer could dream of. We take you through our experience of these 5 days of musical avant-garde…
Day 0: The Opening concert
The Opening concert on Wednesday was a decent start to honour the five-year legacy of this festival whose fame has not ceased to increase since its first edition in 2012, where Four Tet, Little Dragon, Theo Parrish and Nicolas Jaar led the line-up. The setting at the 2000-year-old Roman Amphitheatre in the city-centre of Pula as well as the invitation of avant-garde Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, Detroit legend Moodyman and the famous Massive Attack crew did not fail to inaugurate the following days of musical experience.
Kamasi Washington, who recently signed under the legendary Brainfeeder label and made an impressive impact with his album The Epic in 2015, performed side by side with his father and musician Rickey Washington and his band at the constant cheer of the crowd that was amazed by this mind-blowing musical experience. His two drummers, Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin, engaged in more than one of their famous duels that left us mouth wide open. Not to speak of Patrice Quinn and her hypnotizing voice and dances. Their musical performance led over neatly to one of the highlights for many festivalgoers this year, the epic Bristol-originated band Massive Attack, co-founders of Trip Hop music in the late 80s and by now figuring under Rolling Stone’s 500 best albums of all time. Their stage performance loaded with political messages in Croatian going from Refugee issues to the presidential election of the United States combined with a mind-blowing disruptive light show left not a few breathless. As expected, the crew led us through most of their discographical history before opening the stage to one of our personal highlights of the 5th anniversary of Dimensions, the legendary Detroit house producer and selector Moodymann, also known as Kenny Dixon Jr.. He performed one of his peculiar sessions as DJ accompanied by Flo Real, also from Mahogani Music, and dropped Liem’s If Only that became like an earworm for us. Moodymann surprised the crowd with his eclectic mix between sweet house, soul and musical rarities, dropping tracks as stunning as Jimmy Hendrix’ Purple Haze or Nina Kraviz.
As we already know it from previous Dimensions editions, the organisers managed to combine relaxing beach events with the highly demanded boat parties cruising through the Adriatic sea, hosting some of the upfront musical producers like Hessle Audio, Highlife, Eglo or Resident Advisor, with an extraordinary night program. All in all, the diverse festival line-up spread across eleven stages (including beach and boat stages), every each of them offering a different musical experience for every imaginable taste. You could find from wide and open spaces offering enough space to vividly enjoy the dancing experience, like the Moat or the Clearing, to the minuscule Noah’s Ball Room (a circular pit with 10-meter high stone walls inside the fortress’ defensive wall) where you could find a very unique and personal experience amongst the less than 50 people allowed into it at a time.
Day 1: Thursday
In this sense, the first official festival day started off at the legendary Beach stage and allowed the crowd to discover a variety of upfront world music and sweet disco and house sounds from 12 to 9 PM. Our personal highlight of Thursday’s program was the surprising concert of the London based United Vibrations crew. Their music, which Resident Advisor qualifies as ”the product of a cultural fusion, which knows no boundaries – only possibilities”, is a fusion of jazz, afrobeat and reggae with a very own spiritual soul. No wonder that they released their newest album “I am We” with Ubiquity Records, a label that used to work with legendary Theo Parrish.
We spent the first night hopping around between the Moat, where the Chilean Matias Aguayo delivered frenetic and dark sounds ranging from techno, synth pop to pre-Hispanic influences, the Garden stage and the Void. At the Garden, we discovered Cosmic Slop with high-quality disco and house influences, leaving the stage for Byron the Aquarius, one of the night’s personal highlights, who carried away the dance-crazed crowd with is organic, deep and punchy house sound. We finished the first night with another excellent Moodymann performance at the Clearing stage, one of those particular sets he’s known for and where he blends soul, house, acid, disco or techno with a bunch of other musical rarities.
Day 2: Friday
The second day at the Beach convinced with the talented crew from Down Under, Jordan Rakei and his band, with a soulful voice and with an experimental and dreamy jazz underlined by their synthesizers’ sound. The Highlife crew hosted the major part of the sweet sunshine afternoon with their eclectic mixture of world music rarities. One highlight was Mim Suleiman, who not only stood out with her charismatic performance in Swahili full of powerful and positive vibes, but also thanks to the delivery of a blend of electronic and African rhythms. At the end of Friday’s beach party the great Auntie Flo gave us a fantastic selection of world electronic music, taking us on a journey of danceable sounds from all over the world, especially from Africa and Latin America.
But as we all imagine, it is the night that wakes up the rest of the souls that where chilling at the various beaches around the festival ground curing their hangover from the night before. We spent most of Friday night at the Berlin-sound influenced Void stage, with one of our personal favorites Massimiliano Pagliara, the Berlin based producer and Panorama Bar resident releasing on Ostgut Ton or Live at Robert Jonson, who is known for this characteristic sound he produces with his extensive collection of antique keyboards and synthesizers. House, electronic beats and techno – and a bit of cosmic disco at the end, a very sweet experience. Right after this gem Tama Sumo hit the stage, another Ostgut Ton DJ and previous Tresor resident, with her fine, elegant and organic house that kept the crowd in motion. Next stop was the mind-blowing performance of the Stockholm based duo Mount Liberation Unlimited at the Stables, who delivered an amazing blend of techno and punchy house beats loaded with disco atmospheres and dreamy sounds. After having published their debut EP “Astro Travelling Through Life” and a handful of live shows, MLU have already established themselves as promising producers that “explore the cross over landscape between human groove and electronic synchronization”. We finished our second night with the all-time house legend Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers – without doubt one of the overall highlights of this year’s festival, especially when he delivered his emblematic track “Missing you”. His legendary house tunes were much of a trance-like and religious experience and we preferred to take this as a good ending to this special night, although we kept listening to the great walk through the history of Chicago House by Loefah from the camping ground.
Day 3: Saturday
Saturday night continued with a great line-up in the spirit of the last two evenings, starting off for us with the powerful set of K-15 & Henry Wu at the Stables, where we could hear sweet house blended with punchy R’n’B or other rather harder UK and breakbeat sounds – a nice warm-up for the upcoming night. We continued with Manchester based Jon K. at the Garden, who – known for his mixes of anything imaginable ranging from raw Chicago to space disco tunes – delivered a rather dark blend of diversities. Next stop was the Void, where the legendary Soichi Terada, many years left unrecognized, amazed with his Japanese 90’s house tracks that brought true happiness to the crowd that was out of their minds – especially with his peculiar way of dancing. Soichi’s happy-set was followed by another well-known Rush Hour artist,Hunee. Without too many words, the level of our happiness began to increase even more at the very moment he started his set. Mixing tunes from African proto house over to disco, house and all-in-between tracks with his exquisite technical skills, it’s no wonder you can find this guy on every current line-up of a festival that wants to call itself ‘decent’. Bradley Zero at the Garden gave us the ultimate experience to finish a night with a big smile on our faces. As a London based producer, DJ, broadcaster and label chief (Rhythm Section Institution) he has become now what you would call a “tastemaker” of the actual musical scene. His magic way of smooth mixing quality of disco influenced house, him knowing exactly what the crowd wants to hear paired with his charismatic and attractive performance made the crowd shout for more when the clock turned 5AM and the power was about to be shut down.
Day 4: Sunday
On Sunday morning we woke up with the odd feeling that this was already going to be the last day at this magical spot at the Adriatic sea. Maybe for this reason we enjoyed the more the fabulous Yussef Kamaal Trio with their highly spiritual jazz rhythms loaded with celestial synthesizer rhythms… a promise that finally became reality.
Melbourne based Harvey Sutherland and his band was a truly excellent discovery. Their super dreamy live act with electronic violin, keyboard and organic drums made us literally fly around the beach scenario. And again there was Hunnee – but this time with the greatest imaginable beach closing session, with the people giving everything to his lovely disco tunes (including the emblematic inflatable dolphin that was passed around over the heads of the crowd).
A highly expected act of Sunday night was Hiatus Kaiyote at the Clearing, a great concert with the fantastic voice of Nai Palm at the top paired with the experimental sound of her band: from soul to jazz to rock to noise, sometimes a bit too much experimental for our taste, but a lovely experience. The Swiss DJ and promoter Sassy J is another top set we love to remember from the closing night. She blended raw house from the likes of Theo Parrish or Moodymann with disco, tribal African or Brazilian percussions, which catapulted us into an incredible dance mood. Last but not least, DJ Fett Burger and DJ Sotofett, the Co-founders of the Norwegian record label Sex tags mania, a wonderful record label project that have constantly pushed their musical boundaries, offered a phenomenal 9 hour b2b at the Stables. A moment not to forget is Gilles Peterson at the Clearing – the last part of his set was one of the best memories of the festival. We heard a stunning blend of music, going from Brazilian to African sounds, to Hip Hop, to disco, to everything in between, he really made us love him ever more. And there we were already at the last performance of the night, the already legendary Danilo aka Motor City Drum Ensemble, for us probably the best possible closing for a festival of this caliber. As we know it from his musical past, MCDE convinced as usual with sweet raw house and rarities he mixed in his very unique way, driving us to the outer space 😉 !
Five acts we didn’t want to miss out
All in all, we had a blast at this year’s 5th edition of the already today legendary Dimensions Festival 2016. The spectacular day program at the Beach stage leaves nothing to be desired and the night program, with its vast diversity of any imaginable genre (from house to funk to techno to dub to drum’n’bass…), have offered the audience 5 days of unrivalled musical excellence. The beauty and uniqueness of the festival setting and the fine weather only added to that experience. One thing one could criticise is the rather expensive food and drinks offer (of rather mediocre quality) that you could find at the food courts, and the fact that you were only allowed to bring in one bottle of water.
To celebrate this very succeeded 5th anniversary we resume Dimensions 2016 with our five musical highlights to take away:
- Soichi Terada and his wonderful and happiness inspiring performance
- Bradley Zero with his magical way to capture the crowd at the Garden
- Gilles Peterson carrying the crowd through any imaginable musical heaven at the Clearing
- Antal making the crowd discover and enjoy unheard Braizilian gems at the Beach Stage
- Larry Heard reviving the early beginnings of a soulful Chicago house legacy
Now it’s only left that you register for updates and early bird tickets for the 2017 edition here.